By Kathy Schwarz
Patchogue, N.Y. Friday evening, once again, I had the privilege of witnessing the artistry of Janis Ian. This being her sixth decade, she has evolved into a masterful singer/songwriter/musician. Janis has successfully perfected her craft as well as grow in her artistry. It was quite evident that she is content and comfortable in her own skin. Her voice was on pitch perfect and her musicianship has evolved to the point that she can now be considered among the elite.
She opened her set at the Patchogue Theatre for the Performing Arts with “Society’s Child.” Her rendition was both haunting and bone chilling. There has been an evolution of this song and it has taken on a completely different “face,” making it relevant to the times in which we live.
There were many stand out performances in the show, but the one that stands alone, was her beautiful rendition of “Bright Lights and Promises.” It was powerful and her voice soared, piercing through the stillness of the theatre. I’ve seen and heard this song performed many times, but this by far was the best. This is the performance that will stay etched in my being for all time. Her vocals and musicianship on guitar were beyond anything I had ever heard; following the second chorus she mesmerized herself and her audience in an eleven minute soulful, jazz guitar solo….then gently brought us back to “Bright Lights and Promises.” Simply amazing performance.
Another noteworthy moment in the show was her performance of the anthem, “At Seventeen.” It was definitely a crowd pleasing favorite to which the audience gave a standing ovation, one of several through the night. “At Seventeen” took on an entirely different feel. Her comfort with herself at this stage in her life made the song seem lighter than it ever had. She sang it with a conviction of the past, just that, the past.
“Through the Years,” an all time favorite of mine, was sung and played to perfection. It touched to my core and won’t soon be forgotten.
The show closed with “I’m Still Standing.” It summed up six decades of an ever evolving artist who has been true to herself and her craft.
“See these lines on my face
They’re a map of where I’ve been
and the deeper they are traced
the deeper life has settled in….
And I would not trade a line make it smooth and fine
or pretend that time stands still
I want to rest my soul
Here where it can grow without fear
Another line, another year
I’m still standing here
Skin just covers who I am”
As I looked around me, I observed the audience. The greying hair and the lines on the faces of those who were there for the performance and I said to myself…”this is quite a different audience from the first time I saw Janis Ian in 1975.”
And I realized…”Yes, I too, wouldn’t trade a line or pretend that time stands still.”